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#952289 by woralla
22 Sep 2019, 14:00
Ground Staff
Food & Drink
Cabin Crew
I was one of several V-Flyers who managed to get a G on this inaugural A350 service. The flight was the VS153 service from London Heathrow to New York JFK on Tuesday 10 September 2019.

There was a buzz around the terminal from check-in onwards. Even the security staff were talking about the new Virgin plane. In the Clubhouse, the welcome from the front desk was how lucky I was to be on the new plane.

I headed to the gate as soon as it was announced. At the gate red velvet lollipops were being handed out along with a pouch containing the new gold salt and pepper shakers.

G-VLUX ‘Red Velvet’
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I positioned myself close to the air bridge door so that I could get onboard quickly. I was lucky and was the first passenger down the airbridge to door 1L into the new Upper Class cabin. It had that new car smell!

The cabin is pretty long, with 11 rows of suites. There are overhead bins down both sides and also along the middle. The middle bins recess well into the ceiling, providing a spacious feel to the cabin.

The seat itself looked good. It was narrower than the existing Upper seat by about an inch, but didn’t feel so. There is an armrest to the aisle side which lowers down to the level of the seat. This helped make the suite more spacious.

There is a counter to the side of the seat with two shelves. This provides some storage space. However larger items couldn’t be stored here during takeoff. So my iPad ended up on the floor resting against the side of the plane.

The table lowers down from the side and then swivels around to be in front of you. It wasn’t that easy to do this, but that was, in part, because of the newness of the parts. Give the plane a few flights and this should loosen off.

The table was a little snug against you if the seat was reclined. I hear that a new table is being put on future planes and will be retrofitted to this aircraft in the next couple of months.

Seat 11A
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There was lots of excitement on board as this was the inaugural flight. But it was also a packed flight with a number of BA passengers using Virgin because of their pilots’ strike. That said, we were ready to go on time. Then the pilot came on the PA. Unfortunately the tug, provided by a third party, had broken down whilst attached to the aircraft. He said a second tug was now on its way. The FSM then came over the PA to point out that we could all see what was happening with the tug on the Entertainment System by tuning in the the external nose camera. So what could have been a frustrating wait with little information turned in to a rather entertaining farce as we watched a whole crew of maintenance people try to sort out the tugs.

Pre-take tug issue seen from the nose camera
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We finally pushed back and headed off to the runway. Because of the BA strike, there was a very short wait to take off and we were in the air and on our way pretty quickly.

The Entertainment System has an 18.5” HD monitor and is touch screen. As mentioned above there is a feed from the nose camera, and a second tail camera is available. The screen can be out for take off and landing. Theoretically you can pair your own device to control the system, but I didn’t manage to get this to work. However on the screen you could order food and drinks after the main meal service had finished. Later in the flight, I ordered a Diet Coke with ice and lemon. It arrived minutes later.

Shortly after takeoff the drinks service started. Three crew members were taking orders. One started at the front on either side, servicing A & D and G & K respectively. The third member of crew started at row 7 or 8 servicing across both aisles. So in 11A I didn’t wait too long to have my order taken.

The food order was then taken. The menu choices were:

- Tomato soup with crème fraiche
- Citrus Seared Prawns with watermelon salsa, coriander, mint, sweet chilli and lime dressing
- Cumin Roasted Cauliflower with asparagus, tomato, cucumber, minted yoghurt dressing

- Braised Beef with horseradish mashed potato, honey carrots, kale, madeira sauce
- Seared Honey and Thyme Chicken Linguine with broccoli, mange-tout, pistachio, mint pesto sauce
- Vegetable Tagine with cous cous, chilli, mint, coriander
- Grilled Salmon with fennel, walnut, tomato, basil butter

- Raspberry Sponge Pudding with double cream
- Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with white chocolate mendiant

- Cotswold Brie
- Rutland Red
- Cromwell Bishop Stilton

I chose the prawns to start and beef as a main course. There was a bit of a wait for the meal service to start. I put that down to it being a new aircraft with the crew getting used to a new galley.

When the table was laid, there was no table cloth. Instead there was a plastic mat. This was apparently an environmental initiative. It hasn’t lasted. On a subsequent flight, the table cloths were back!

The food itself was good. I washed it down with a glass of Rioja.

After the meal, I played around with the Entertainment System and chatted with some of the Virgin people who were on board for the inaugural flight. The pilot stopped by and had a chat with a group of use about the problems with the tug before departure.

Then I converted the seat to a bed. The mattress cover wraps around the seat before you recline it and stretches into place. The pillow was rectangular rather than the square ones with the old suite. And there was the standard new all-in-one duvet. As a bed I found it pretty comfortable. There was more legroom than the current seat as the footstool is wider than the old ottoman. Around the head there was also plenty of space. The privacy screen helped enclose the bed a bit. But there was some lighting around the seat which could be annoying when trying to sleep.

About two hours out, extra bites were offered. The choices were:

- Classic Gourmet Beef Burger on brioche bun with Swiss cheese, red cabbage slaw and crisps
- Hot smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber in a beetroot wrap and Salt Beef with pickle and cheese on a malted roll
- Brie and chilli jam on a malted roll and sweet potato falafel in a beetroot wrap
- Warm Mediterranean Vegetable Tart
- Warm scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam
- Chocolate and salted caramel éclair
- Passionfruit and Yuzu Macaron

I had the burger.

Soon it was time to prepare for landing. We arrived about fifteen minutes behind schedule, which wasn’t bad considering we took off almost an hour behind schedule. As we taxied, I noticed a number of airport staff taking pictures of our aircraft.

You can see the full experience of the new Upper Class in the video I’ve posted over on YouTube.
#952293 by NV43
22 Sep 2019, 17:50
Thanks for the very detailed TR and, also, the excellent video; I loved the comment regarding the BA strike made by the cabin crew on arrival at JFK!

Did any one use the Loft space?
#952297 by woralla
22 Sep 2019, 21:06
NV43 wrote:Did any one use the Loft space?

The Loft was fairly business. There were a lot of Virgin staff on board sorting out snags with the plane who used it as well as Upper Class passengers. It was quite noisy for seats like 11A at the back of the cabin. I would definitely sit further forward next time.
#952309 by David
23 Sep 2019, 07:31
Thanks for TR Woralla.

Am I correct in thinking there is now no TV handset controller and “if” you manage to pair your own device, this is what you’d use ? I always liked having the map on the small screen while watching the man in screen.

I’m guessing if this is the case, virtually everybody’s device will be plugged in for most of the flight to keep them alive if they are transmitting Bluetooth for 7+ hours, working as a remote and doing the usual “phone” stuff

Will need to get some flights booked to try the new planes out. Hopefully most of the gremlins will be ironed out by them.

Thanks again


PS love your videos
#952313 by woralla
23 Sep 2019, 09:37
David wrote:Thanks for TR Woralla.

Am I correct in thinking there is now no TV handset controller and “if” you manage to pair your own device, this is what you’d use ?

Yes. There is no handset. Like you I used to use the handset to see the maps, but more recently took to using FlightRadar24 on my iPhone.
However the touch screen worked well and it was easy to get flight time left data up.
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